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Herbs & Botanicals

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Scopolia (S. carniolica Jacq.)

What is scopolia? What is it used for?

Also known as Russian belladonna, scopolia is a perennial plant native to southern Germany, Austria and southwest Russia. The plant can reach a height of two feet, with a fleshy stem and dull green leaves.

The plant's rhizomes, or underground parts, vary in color from yellow to gray, and usually grow horizontally. The roots and rhizomes are used in herbal preparations, and are dried and sometimes sliced before use. The plant has a sweet yet bitter taste, and is considered a narcotic.

The main ingredients in scopolia are alkaloids and a pair of chemicals (L-hyoscyamine and scopolamine). The German Commission E has recommended that scopolia can be used to treat spasms of the gastrointestinal tract, bile ducts and urinary tract. Scopolia is also believed to affect the vegetative nervous system and smooth muscles.

How much scopolia should I take?

Unless otherwise prescribed, the average daily dose of scopolia should contain no more than 0.25 milligrams of total alkaloids (hyoscynamine). The maximum daily dose is 3 milligrams total alkaloids. Scopolia is usually taken as a decoction or tea.

What forms of scopolia are available?

Sliced, dried scopolia root and rhizome is available at some Asian markets and herbal shops. Scopolia powders can also be found for use in decoctions.

What can happen if I take too much scopolia? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Extremely high doses of scopolia can cause excitation, manic episodes, and possible hallucinations. Possible side-effects associated with scopolia include dry mouth, reddening of the skin, difficulty urinating, and increased pressure to the eyes, which may lead to glaucoma. Scopolia should not be used by patients who have heart conditions or glaucoma. In addition, it can increase the effectiveness of drugs such as tricyclic antidepressants, amantadine and quinidine. Patients taking these drugs should not take scopolia without first consulting a licensed health care provider.

The American Herbal Products Association has given scopolia a class 3 rating, meaning that there is enough data that suggests it should be used only under the supervision of an expert qualified in the appropriate usage of this herb. Make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking scopolia or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Blumenthal M, Busse W, Goldberg A, et al (eds.) The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, p. 202.
  • Frohne D, Pfander HJ. Giftplanzen - Ein Handbuch fur Apotheker, Toxikologen und Biologen, 4th ed. Stuttgart: Wiss. Verlags-Ges., 1997.
  • Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C (eds.) PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, 2000, pp. 671-672.
  • McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, et al (eds.) American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, p. 105.
  • Teuscher E, Lindequist U. Biogene Gifte - Biologie, Chemie, Pharmakologie, 2nd ed. Stuttgart: Fischer Verlag, 1994.

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